Most teachers understand that everyone learns in a different way. Some are visual/spatial learners while others are auditory/sequential learners. Observant teachers have found that the visual-spatial learners can blow you away with their ability to visualize the answers rather than take the time to work out a problem. They do better on IQ and aptitude tests than the auditory-spatial learners; yet don’t get the concepts involved with getting the answers. “They are system thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details.”
Most teachers gear their curriculum toward auditory/spatial learners. For one thing it’s easier to teach. Much of it is oral communication, learning lists and following instructions (sequential — step by step). The problem with this is that not all students learn this way, and the brightest may get poor grades because they have trouble adjusting to a teaching style that does not process for them. The auditory learner may do better grade-wise, but they do not retain as much, and tend to limit themselves to the details, without seeing the overall picture. Visual/spatial learners try to make up for their weakness in their auditory/sequential skills by trying to conform, but this causes a lot of stress and often their performance begins to lag and their grades begin to drop.
Unless the teacher is able to identify individual learning styles, and modify how they teach their students to teach to both the auditory and visual learners, the latter will continue to fall through the cracks in the system and we will lose some of our best and brightest.
According to Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, teacher and director of the Gifted Developmental Center (GDC), “We only have two hemispheres, and we are doing an excellent job teaching one of them. We need only become more aware of how to reach the other, and we will have happier students, learning more effectively.”
Brain research has shown that our brains are divided into two hemispheres — the right side is analytical – and usually attributed to auditory/sequential learners; the left is our creative side and attributed to visual/spatial learners. How we process our information relates to how we function in other areas of our lives.
Ideally, if a student could be taught to use both sides of their brain they would excel in every way. It’s always good to see the whole entire picture and then zoom in on the details, moving back and forth. An organized student is a better student, and able to improve their study skills, but if they can’t see the whole picture and relate it to something they understand the lesson will not be learned.
I see many people in my line of work who have lost confidence in themselves because they didn’t think they could learn, when the real problem was the way the lessons were taught. Updating teachers training to include exercises that stimulate both types of learning will turn out better educated people, and lower the drop-out rate, especially for students who could be termed as “gifted.”
Dr Linda Kreger Silverman — Visual/Spatial Learners: http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/Visual_Spatial_Learner/vsl.htm
Lesley K Sword — Gifted and Creative Services, Australia: http://www.giftedservices.com.au